I Know You Are, But What Am I?

When I was a child on the playground, it was not uncommon for the playground banter to include some name-calling.

Generally speaking, it was nothing vicious. It was something simple like “You’re dumb.” or “You’re too short.”, etc. A common smart aleck reply was to say, “I know you are, but what am I?” as a way of shutting down the attempted bully. It was a way to say, “You may think you are talking about me, but you are really talking about you.”

There is great wisdom in that method of stopping the name-calling. The truth is, the negative characteristics we think see in others are often characteristics we have but are unwilling to admit to having. A common example is the cheating spouse who accuses their partner of infidelity. Another example is the co-worker whom is quick to point out someone else’s laziness but is the first person to leave at the end of the work day. Usually the characteristic in someone else that really drives us crazy is the one thing about ourselves that we cannot face up to or tolerate. It is our “shadow”- the part of us we deny or hide because exposure would leave us vulnerable to rejection or disapproval.

Admitting to having aspects of ourselves we would rather hide can be a part of adding peace to our lives. If you are able to admit your faults and see how it is you are like the person who is upsetting you, that adds to your freedom. You are freer because their behavior will not trigger you as readily when you are aware you act the same way sometimes. It allows you to admit to your own imperfections. It also affords you the opportunity to show compassion for the person who is the source of your upset. If you first admit you have done the same thing (or something similar), it makes it a lot harder for you to see the “offender” as so much different from yourself. The more you see someone as being like yourself, the less likely it is you will be harboring resentment against them. The less resentment you have in your life, the more peace you will have instead. The more peace you have, the more freedom you have. So allow your “shadow” to come to light and be free.

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